I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s the only holiday we’ve got left that doesn’t involve wrapping paper, greeting cards, novelty songs, or heavily discounted automobiles. And even though Wal-Mart opens at five in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to lure desperate Christmas shoppers into its store with the promise of ninety-nine cent plasma televisions, Thanksgiving itself somehow retains its traditional low-key charm. It’s a holiday where the only thing you give is thanks and the only thing you get is the shits.
It’s a great holiday.
Americans have other feast days, of course: The Fourth of July, Super Bowl Sunday, every other day of the year. But Thanksgiving is different. For one thing, the food is better. Because it’s the kind of meal that has to be thought out beforehand. Even if you make the same thing every year, as most people do, it still requires a lot of effort and preparation. That act alone, the act of spending the day with friends and family creating a communal meal, makes Thanksgiving a great holiday. Every other holiday revolves around some other frivolous activity. On Christmas it’s opening presents. On the Fourth of July, it’s shooting Roman candles at the dog. But Thanksgiving is singular in its focus.
Personally, I am a Thanksgiving traditionalist. There are those who insist on getting creative with their Thanksgiving dinners, but I know from personal experience there are few things in life more upsetting than sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner after a brisk game of touch football on the lawn only to discover a heaping plate of fresh roasted squab. Or venison. Or grouse. Or anything that isn’t a fucking turkey. I am all for culinary excursions for three hundred and sixty four days out of the year. Not on Thanksgiving. On that Thursday I want what everybody wants: turkey, gravy, potatoes (traditional mashed or sweet), some kind of stuffing, a gloppy, disgusting green bean casserole, and endless amounts of free-flowing Dr. Pepper. (I recognize that Dr. Pepper isn’t necessarily a tradition in other people’s households, and I admit it’s not one in mine either, but I like Dr. Pepper a lot and I see no reason why I shouldn’t have as much of it as I like on Thanksgiving.)
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can get creative because Thanksgiving is the kind of holiday that has it’s traditions yes, but they are flexible enough to accommodate all Americans. For example, I know that the Italians like to add some fish into the mix. Go for it. Perhaps those of Swiss origin supplement their meal with crazy Thanksgiving fondue. Fine. The Irish, of course get hammered and beat each other senseless with the turkey carcass.
This year, my wife is making some sort of cheese/pasta/butternut squash concoction, which I have assured her sounds delicious. Now, you and I know that it sounds shitty, but that’s another great thing about Thanksgiving. Nobody notices how much of anything you eat. So I can take a spoonful of her weird-ass gratin, move it around my plate, tell her “it’s amazing,” then dump it in the trash when I go back for seconds on the marshmallow casserole. That’s a perfect example of Thanksgiving win/win.
The other aspect of Thanksgiving that is so important is the giving of thanks. Some people like to do this in a public way, maybe by going around the table and having everybody say what they are thankful for. This is a situation where, like in Texas Hold ‘Em, position is everything, You want to be first to act so that you can say, “I’m thankful for this fantastic meal prepared by our beautiful host and hostess in their exquisite home, surrounded by these wonderful people I love.” Not only is this a gracious way to kick off the thanks portion of the evening, but you will get the added satisfaction of screwing things up for everybody else at the table, who will be undoubtedly thinking to themselves, “Fuck! That’s what I was going to say!” As you work your way around the table, people won’t want to repeat what’s already been said, so they’ll start injecting topics like politics into it and saying things like, “I’m thankful the situation in Iraq seems to have stabilized somewhat, and in the coming year I hope the troops will come home soon.” It's sort of brown-nosy, but passable. Eventually though, as you work your way to the end of the table, everything good will have already been said, so the last person will be left to say something like, “I’m thankful dragons aren’t real because that would be scary.” Horrible.
But there really is much to be thankful for this year, even though we are in the midst of global financial Armageddon and the United States will probably cease to exist as a nation state within the next twelve months. What follows is my official “What I am thankful for in ’08 list:
• Friends and family (as I said, you’ve got to start with this one. You get it out of the way straight off the top and if you keep it vague enough nobody feels slighted. When I win my Oscar next year, I plan on saying the same thing – “Thanks friends and family!”)
• A roof above my head. (Another classic, although in the next few months my adjustable rate mortgage is scheduled to go from $354 a month to $21,000 a month. On a related note, I am kicking myself for purchasing Lenny Kravitz’s old apartment, which I knew I probably couldn’t really afford on the strength of my advance from “Chicken Cheeks.”)
• My health (my hepatitis C notwithstanding)
• David Sedaris (This might seem odd coming from his sworn enemy, but how do we know how we truly magnificent we are without knowing what we might become if we were the evil versions of ourselves? You see? Without David Sedaris fucking up all that is right in the world, I would never know the full extent of my own goodness. Ditto Tucker Max.)
• Whatever that pill is that my wife takes for her anxiety. It works for her, but it does wonders for me.
• All the good people at Comedy Central for keeping me in suspense. (Life would be so boring if they just gave you a television show. It’s a lot more exciting when they make you wait for months to let you know if you’re going to be able to feed your family the following year. Thanks guys, for keeping it fun!)
• President Obama (not because I care about his policies but because I put down a thousand dollar bet on him last year when the odds of him getting elected were still 8-1. I’m letting it ride on Palin in 2012. Go Sarah Barracuda!!!)
Finally, I’m thankful to all the regular readers of my blog. Without you, I would be like those Japanese kids who won’t come out of their rooms for years at a time. I should rephrase that: without you, I would be even more like those Japanese kids who don’t come out of their rooms for years at a time. So thanks for the support.
Have a great Thanksgiving, everybody!